A Skeptical Look at Geronimo Rubio, M.D.
and His Treatment Programs
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Geronimo Rubio, M.D., has been offering "alternative" cancer treatments in Tijuana, Mexico, for many years. His first facility, American Metabolic Institute (A.M.I.), was opened in 1983 and operated for about 25 years. His current facility, the Rubio Cancer Center, appears to have been operating for about ten years. In 2011, the Rubio Center's Web site described him this way:
Dr. Geronimo Rubio is a leading international researcher specializing in immunotherapy cancer treatments. He has successfully developed techniques that use personalized cancer vaccines and adult stem cell therapies for the treatment of cancer. He graduated from the University of Baja California Medical School, focusing on research involving parasitology, bacteriology, biochemistry and physiology. In the last 25 years he has developed innovative treatments to fight cancer through immunotherapy and other noninvasive techniques. He is a regular lecturer at holistic and medical conferences in both the United States and Mexico. He has published numerous articles and has been featured in research papers and books including Burton Goldberg's groundbreaking Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer. He is also a regular speaker at conferences organized by such organizations as the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine and The Cancer Control Society. He is currently the founder and medical director at the Rubio Cancer Center in Tijuana, Mexico, where he leads a team of doctors and researchers, along with his son, Dr. Geronimo Rubio, Jr. 
A biographical sketch prepared for a 2016 meeting of the Cancer Control Society included this information:
His research at Rubio Cancer Center specializes in immunology, customized cancer vaccines and adult stem cells for regenerative medicine for the treatment of cancer and chronic diseases. As a Medical Director and Research Director for over 30 years, Dr. Rubio's specialties include: Oncology, Hematology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Bacteriology, Parasitology and Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Rubio is certified by the FIMBR, the International Federation of Regenerative Medicine and in 2013 he received his diploma from the University of Puebla in Regenerative Medicine. For the last 30 years, Dr. Rubio has researched and developed a process of RNA transference in lymphocytes, and peptide formulas for cancer cells and developed the formula for the blocking factors in tumor cells. He is presently the Medical Director of Rubio Cancer Center, located in La Mesa, Mexico, where his special Immune Vaccines are combined with Rife Technology and Herbal Medicines. Rubio Cancer Center is one of the top ten hospitals in the country of Mexico, certified by the Mexican government to manufacture and apply adult stem cells and cancer vaccines. In 2015, Dr. Rubio received a certificate of recognition from the State of California, Senator Joel Anderson's Office for his outstanding community service in Health Education. He is also the co-author of Breaking The Cancer Code, A Revolutionary Approach To Reversing Cancer, and is a popular lecturer at U.S. health and medical conferences. His reputation in reversing cancer is confirmed by Health authorities and written about by bestselling authors, who call him "The Tijuana Tumor Terminator." 
In 1983 Rubio and William R. Fry co-founded the American Metabolic Institute in La Mesa, Mexico, four miles south of the San Diego Border. Rubio served as medical director, and Fry served as business director. A.M.I.'s Mexican facilities included Hospital San Martin, which was also known as St. Joseph Hospital. A.M.I.'s business office, which Fry operated, was located in Bonita, California. During the 1980s and early 1990s, A.M.I.'s hospital facility was called Rosarita Hospital. From 1996 through 2004, the A.M.I. Web site described its program this way:
A.M.I. and St. Joseph Hospital staff consists of Medical Doctors, Nursing staff, a Chiropractor, Naturopathic Doctor, an Iridologist, Master Herbalist, Counselors, Physical Therapist and Administrative, Maintenance and Kitchen staff. The program offers Blood testing, Urine analysis, Allergy and Compatibility testing, and lridology, Physical and Chiropractic examinations. Upon completion of all testing, a consultation with the doctors and patient is held to develop a customized metabolic therapy program to balance the patient's health. To assist this process, Chelation therapy, Lymphatic congestion therapy, Acupuncture, Massage, Oxygen therapies, lmmuno therapy, Colon therapy, Rife frequency generator technology, Cranial electrostimulation, Reflexology, Colonics, Colemas, Enemas, Mineral and Herbal baths, Sauna, Clay, Private and Group Therapy, Nutritional counseling, Writing programs and Positive thought therapy are provided for a balance of healing to encompass the mind, body, spirit and emotion. The above-mentioned therapies assist the process of cleansing the body of toxins and negative energy, replenishing it with Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs, Amino Acids, Enzymes, to re-educate and rejuvenate the immune system and restore a positive mental attitude 
During most of the same period, A.M.I. advertisements in Alternative Medicine Digest promised:
From 2004 through 2008, the A.M.I. Web site listed the above therapies plus acupuncture, applied kinesiology, biofeedback training, chemical sensitivity & poisoning, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, dark field microbiology, detoxification, fasting, and guided imagery and its list of conditions treated also included Alzheimer's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, degenerative diseases, diabetes, digestive disorders, fungal infection, gall bladder disorders, memory & cognitive problems, osteoporosis, pulmonary & respiratory diseases, and breast cancer .
A flier distributed in August 1990 stated that AMI's fees were $7,400 for its 21-day cancer program, $4,900 for its 14-day Candida program, $4,200 for its 14-day detox program, and $1,700 for its 7-day detox program.
The most detailed description of AMI's approach was published as a chapter in the Definitive Guide to Cancer . The chapter stated:
- A.M.I. used "up to 150 different nontoxic medications and therapies to train the immune system to eliminate cancer." These include shark liver oil and intravenous laetrile.
- Rubio's "generalized model for cancer treatment included: a dietary plan based on the patient's blood type; a 3-day limited fast; detoxification with "organ cleansers," several types of enemas, and removal of amalgam fillings; herbal products; digestive enzymes; daily intravenous infusions of nutrients, including 100,000 international units of vitamin D and 150 grams of vitamin C; oxygen therapy; vaccines cultured from the patient's blood and tumor cells; visualization; treatment with a Rife frequency generator; and low-dose radiation after which a fresh poultice of cabbage is placed in the external site of radiation "to draw out the toxins" and the patient is immersed in a whole-body bath containing baking soda, sea salt, and ginger "to remove radiation from the body."
- According to Rubio, AMI's success rate in reversing stage II and IV cancers was 65% to 75%, but when cancers were discovered earlier, the reversal rate was about 80%.
Treatable and Beatable: Healing Cancer without Surgery, a book written by Carolyn Gross, includes sections in which Rubio states that he had been using "customized cancer vaccines" for over 20 years and describes his therapies about their use. However, he states that his protocol includes low doses of radiation and chemotherapy that "wipe out the tumor" so that the immune system "can attack it intelligently." . As far as I know, he has never published any data showing that his supposed immune-boosting methods provide a better outcome than would occur with radiation and/or chemotherapy. Gross, who says Rubio's vaccine treatment cured her of Stage III intraductal breast cancer, now works as a patient advocate for Rubio's clinic. Her preface in Breaking the Cancer Code states that before that she was a massage therapist who had a private practice as a craniosacral therapist. The clinic's Web site describes her as "a health and wellness expert," even though biographical sketches describe no formal education capable of providing such expertise.
In July 2001, the San Diego Union Tribune reported that A.M.I.'s San Martin Clinic was ordered to close by after government inspectors found that chicken livers and tissue from guinea pigs had been mixed with the human tissue of cancer patients in making injectable products used for treatment . The article also noted that Rubio could not provide research protocols for the treatments, as required by Mexico's federal health department. Three weeks later, the paper reported that the clinic was raided again because it had defied the order to close. A subsequent report stated that it was permitted to reopen after promising to offer only standard treatments . Alfredo Gruel, a physician who oversaw health regulation for the Baja California health department, told a Los Angeles Times reporter that unsanctioned clinics blossomed alongside lawful alternative centers over the years because of lax oversight and, very likely, official corruption . I don't know when A.M.I. reopened and whether subsequently received permission to provide nonstandard treatments or whether it simply did so and was ignored by the Mexican government. Gruel later told me that shutting clinics down permanently is very difficult because:
- The Directorate of Sanitary Regulation, which has a limited budget, is responsible for everything from hospitals to medical offices, restaurants, bars, pharmacies, any industry that uses or produces anything that could affect health; importation and exportation of anything that has to do with health; the pharmaceutical industry, etc etc. and that in Tijuana alone there are probably about 500 clinics and hospitals (all types and sizes), 200 Chinese restaurants, 600 to 800 pharmacies, more that 1,000 physicians, and many other entities. So the budget is never enough, and politics, which has to do with elected government's priorities, makes the situation very complicated.
- Some of these operations are just plain hidden from view. Either they initially request a license to operate as regular clinics or hospitals and later just change to whatever it is they wanted to do in the first place, or they set up shop in hiding from the very beginning and the health authority will only be alerted when something terrible happens.
- The applicable laws also hinder this regulation. The health authority cannot permanently close an establishment on the first violation (unless something almost criminal should happen) and even when they do close and fine a clinic, as soon as they can prove they are in compliance with whatever was detected they were violating, they have to be authorized to reopen (of course they sign a commitment to abide by health regulation). If case they are permanently shut down, they can set up a new company and with new owners and request a new license.
Gruel also told me that when he was attacking the improper clinics, he estimated that it would take four or five years plus continued enthusiasm be able to say that the situation was under control. But the next government that took office did not share his agency's opinion about the program's importance and put their budget more into other health-related areas .
In 2008, the A.M.I. Web site disappeared, but Rubio began doing business as the Rubio Cancer Center. His methodology, described in detail in his 2013 book, Breaking the Cancer Code , did not change, except that in recent years he has added what he calls immunotherapy, stem cell therapy, and cancer vaccines and currently requires a 4-week minimum stay. His Web site now states:
Founded by prominent immunotherapy researcher Dr. Geronimo Rubio, the Rubio Cancer Center takes a noninvasive wide-ranging approach to stem cell and cancer treatment. This treatment plan centers on activating the immune system through a series of specialized cancer vaccines that are derived from the patients own immune system and cancer antigens or tissue. The Rubio Cancer Center also treats malignancies through nontoxic medications, low-dose radiation and chemotherapy, extensive detoxification protocols, bioelectrical medicine and proper diet. From its headquarters in Tijuana, Mexico, it currently serves patients from all over the world. The center's medical modalities and protocols have proven effective in the fight against a wide range of malignant diseases and medical conditions. In addition to its core treatment program, the organization employs rife therapy to help break down cancerous cells, nebulizer breathing therapy to fight respiratory infection, and thalassotherapy to "balance mind, body, and soul." It also improves nutritional health through a comprehensive regimen of herbal supplements and cleanses the body using ionized and ozonated water .
Criminal Prosecution for Insurance Fraud and Tax Evasion
In 2004, Rubio, Fry, Debbie LaRue, and John Ditredici, D.O., were charged with conspiracy and health care fraud related to AMI's operation . The indictment also alleged that the foursome submitted health insurance claim forms for medical procedures, services, and supplies that were not provided and fabricated medical reports and hospital bills to support those claims. Rubio and Fry were also charged with filing false tax returns, and Fry was further charged with illegally structuring financial transactions by making 22 cash withdrawals of $9,900 (total $$217,750) from bank accounts during a 14-month period. (These amounts were just below the just below the $10,000-per-transaction level that requires federal reporting.) LaRue, who is Fry's niece, managed the A.M.I. business office and processed insurance claims that falsely represented that St. Joseph Hospital was located in San Diego. (This was done because many insurance plans exclude coverage of treatment done outside of the United States.) Ditredici,who practiced in New York City, was a patient of Rubio was accused of conspiring with Rubio and Fry to falsely claim that he got chemotherapy so insurance companies would pay for his treatment . The alleged false billings, which totaled $170,921.50 for eight patients, included $29,519.50 for Ditredici.
Detredici and LaRue were dismissed as defendants in 2006. In 2007, Rubio and Fry pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. Their guilty pleas admitted that they had submitted false bills to American insurance companies and substantially under-reported their income on their individual federal income tax returns. In 2010, Rubio was sentenced to serve 12 months and Fry was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison, both to be followed by three years of supervised release. For their health care fraud convictions, Rubio and Fry were ordered pay $63,237 in restitution to insurance providers. Rubio was also fined $7,500 and ordered to pay the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $356,311 in back taxes for tax years 1998 through 2003; and Fry was ordered to pay the $314,159 in back taxes for tax years 1997 through 2003 .
Count 38 of Rubio's indictment, to which he pleaded guilty, states that his reported income for 2000 was $14,755, for which the tax would been $2,213. This plus the court-ordered payment, would be $358,524, which, using the Tax Chimp calculator, corresponds to a taxable income of about $975,350.
In 2012, the IRS sent Rubio a "Notice of Federal Tax Lien Filing" with assessments of $136,692 for 1998, $183,896 for 1999, $259,712 for 2000, and $102,882, $71,3441 for $2002, and $259,814 for 2003—a total of $994,438 for the six years mentioned in the indictment . After meeting with Rubio, the IRS asked him to provide written answers to 55 questions related to his tax returns from 2008 through 2011. Among other things, he was asked to explain (a) the relationship between his many bank accounts and why money was transferred from one to another, (b) the basis for claiming more than $4 million in expenses, including travel expense of $249,913 in 2011, and (c) why statements from one of his business accounts repeated large cash withdrawals and check card purchases or other transactions at a gambling casino as well as "a considerable number of transactions totaling in the tens of thousands each month for hotels, restaurants, Total Fitness, Alliance Training, Amazon Marketplace, Racing Digest, Airline Tickets, Cox Communications, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Toy R Us, Jerome's Furniture, LA Fitness, Target, Walmart, Vons, etc." The IRS also asked about the purpose of the Rubio Immunological Foundation (incorporated in Nevada) and Geronimo Cancer Research Foundation (incorporated in Texas) .
Shortly after the meeting with the IRS, Rubio petitioned the Court to stop the IRS from collecting any taxes for the years 1998 through 2003 on grounds that the court settlement should take precedence . As far as I can tell from publicly available documents, the Justice Department concurred and the judge granted this request [19,20]. I do not know whether the IRS took any further action related to Rubio's taxes for 2008 through 2011.
In 2002, the San Diego Union Tribune reported the story of 6-year-old Silas Luciano, whose parents took him to A.M.I. for treatment of a rare and deadly cancer after being told that the clinic had an 80% success rate. The article said:
Just weeks into the treatments, the Lucianos said, Rubio presented CAT scans that purportedly showed their child's cancer had disappeared. The Lucianos said they spent $90,000 and three months at the clinic, but Silas' condition continued to deteriorate. They took Silas to a traditional Tijuana hospital for an additional set of tests. Doctors there confirmed the boy's body was riddled with cancer. The Lucianos confronted Rubio with the hospital tests. They said he assured them their son was fine and promised a new, stronger course of experimental treatments. "If someone said, 'If you jump up and down in manure, it will help your son,' we'd have jumped up and down in manure," Jim Luciano said. "Mentally, all you want someone to say is, 'We can do it; there is no problem.' And that's what Rubio always said." Two days later, on Feb. 14, 2001, Silas died at the clinic .
The Lucianos subsequently sued Fry and A.M.I. for malpractice , but I do not know the outcome.
In 2016, a relative of a former Rubio patient filed a public notice that Rubio had treated her uncle for for State IV prostate cancer cancer at a cost of about $50,000 for six weeks, during which he was given "T-Cells vaccines" and told that his cancer had shrunk by 50% and his therapy had worked. However, when he returned to the United States, his cancer specialist obtained an MRI and reported that the tumor had actually quadrupled in size .
Why I am Skeptical
- I believe it is best for people with cancer to obtain treatment from doctors who have undergone years of specialized training after medical school graduation. Since Dr. Rubio's biographical sketches do not mention any such training, I think it is safe to assume that he hasn't had any.
- Although Rubio claims to be a "leading researcher," and "research director," the National Library of Medicine (PubMed) database, which indexes of the publications in recognized medical journals, has none listed under his name. Nor does he display any on his Web sites.
- Using Google searches, I was unable to locate any Web site or other information about an International Federation of Regenerative Medicine that supposedly certified him. Nor could I find any mention of a diploma in regenerative medicine on the University of Puebla Web site.
- The "Rife technology" that Rubio uses is based on the pseudoscientific activities of Royal Raymond Rife (1888-1971), who claimed that cancer was caused by bacteria and that his devices emitted vibrations that would shatter them. Several people who have used or sold Rife devices for treating cancer have been prosecuted in the United States .
- The fact that Rubio has spoken several times at Cancer Control Society conventions is not a sign of reputability. Nearly everything this group promotes is based on simplistic and/or discredited theories and treatments that either (a) haven't been shown to be safe and effective for an intended purpose, or (b) have failed under proper testing .
- As far as I can tell, Rubio's claims of 65% to 80% "cancer reversal" have never been supported by a release of any data. To develop such data, it would be necessary to track all patients for many years after they leave his clinic. As far as I know, the only "follow-up" data he has ever made public are a few patient testimonials that provide few details. Testimonials for cancer cures are not reliable .
- The probability that Rubio has developed a vaccine treatment for cancer is very small. Although this has been an active area of research for decades , and many clinical trials are under way, the only two vaccines have been sufficiently developed to receive FDA-approval for treatment . If Dr. Rubio could actually cure cancer with vaccines, he would be making headlines everywhere and headed for a Nobel Prize. I don't think he is.
If you or someone you know have consulted Dr. Rubio, I am
interested in hearing from you by phone (919 533-6009) or e-mail.
- Bio. Rubio Cancer Center Web site, archived July 20, 2011.
- Geronimo Rubio, M.D. Cancer Control Society Web site, accessed March 24, 2018.
- Introduction by Bill Fry, director. A.M.I. Web site, archived Dec 26, 1996.
- Therapies and diseases list. A.M.I. Web site, archived June 16, 2008.
- Geronimo Rubio, M.D. Chapter 17 in Diamond JW and others. Definitive Guide to Cancer. Tiburon, CA: Future Medicine Publishing, 1997, pp 336-348.
- Rubio G. Foreward and Afterword in Gross C. Treatable and Beatable: Healing Cancer without Surgery. Creative Living Publications, Escondido, Calif., 2007.
- Sanchez EF, Crabtree P. Alternative Tijuana clinic shut down by Baja officials: Chicken livers reportedly used in cancer treatments. San Diego Tribune, July 27, 2001.
- Crabtree P. Tijuana alternative cancer clinic raided, closed by health officials. San Diego Union Tribune, Aug 18, 2001.
- Ellingwood K. Officials target Baja's deceptive health clinics. Los Angeles Times, Aug 13, 2001.
- Gruel A. Email to Dr. Stephen Barrett, Feb 18, 2006.
- Rubio G, Gross C. Breaking the Cancer Code: Revolutionary Approach to Beating Cancer. Self-published, 2013
- The Rubio Cancer Center treatment program. Rubio Cancer Center Web site, accessed March 29, 2018.
- Indictment. U.S.A. v William R. Fry, Geronimo Rubio, Debbie LaRue, and John Ditredici. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Case No. 04-cr-01276, filed May 11, 2004.
- Soto OR, Dibble D. Operators of Tijuana clinic arrested on fraud charges. San Diego Union Tribune, May 20, 2004.
- Two sentenced in federal income tax felonies. USDOJ news release, Feb 9, 2010.
- Notice of federal tax lien filing. San Diego County, filed Feb 10, 2012.
- Kelly E. Letter to Theresa M. Droulliard, June 12, 2012.
- Memorandum of points and authorities in support of motion to direct the government (InternalRevenue Service) to comply with the restitution order of this court and 18 U.S.C. §§ 3664(i) and 3612(c). Case No 04-cr-1276-002-JAH, filed July 16, 2012.
- Joint motion to amend restitution order of defendant Geronimo Rubio. U.S.A. v. Geronimo Rubio. Court for the Southern District of California, Case No 04-cr-1276-002-JAH, filed 1/17/13.
- Crabtree P, Dibble D. Tijuana alternative clinics frustrate regulators. San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb 24, 2002.
- James and Rhonda Luciano vs. William P. Fry et al. San Diego Superior Court, Case No. GIC783069, filed Feb 13, 2002.
- Rubio Cancer Center in Mexico, Dr. Geronimo Rubio Cancer Treatment Ripoff! Tijuana. Ripoff Report Web site, April 29, 2016.
- Barrett S. Rife device marketer sentenced to prison. Quackwatch, Feb 22, 2010.
- London WM. Continuing education in the toxin haunted world of the Cancer Control Society. Skeptical Inquirer, Nov 15, 2015.
- Barrett S. Questionable cancer therapies. Quackwatch, July 24, 2015.
- Cancer vaccines. National Cancer Institute Web site, Dec 18, 2015.
- Liu JKH. Anti-cancer vaccines—A one-hit wonder? Yale Journal of Medicine and Biology 87:481-489, 2014.
This article was revised on April 27, 2018.